For the Good of the Group 251
parents, thereby affecting the lives of the children.147 So although the consent decree here did
positively affect a significant number of families,
The Aristotle P. impacts have been tangible, but not as large as they ideally would have
been, as evidenced by the continued extensions of the consent decree.148 DCFS has failed to
properly implement the agreed-upon practices and, as a result, too few reviews are being
completed—specifically, in only 55% of the cases that need placement reviews and visitation
support are receiving support based on the number from the random sample.149 However, the
Office of the Public Guardian continues to push DCFS to follow the agreed-upon policy,
something that would not be as feasible without this consent decree.150 Therefore, the changes
that have come out of the decree are more positive than negative and do allow for continued
pressure on DCFS to provide children the resources to pursue their right to connect with their
siblings so long as the decree is extended.
While the safety plan litigation is still too new to determine any resulting data, these impact
litigations show that there is more to a successful change than numbers may reflect. It will likely
never be clear how many families were benefitted by the enforcement of proper safety plan
implementation or how much money was saved. However, that is not an indication that the change
was not successful in supporting children. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind all aspects of
success when analyzing a change.
Discussions of making the child welfare system “work” for those who it is intended for are
not new.151 However, class actions take a different approach to the issue and allow not only the
system to work for kids, but for kids to work within the system. Class actions in the form of
impact litigation can be an effective use of legal power to make change in the child welfare system.
Unlike legislative change, these four examples in Illinois show that using litigation to change the
implementation of policy can be an appropriate way to make less reactive and more proactive
change. Litigation brings the issue to the court as opposed to waiting for the legislators to change
it and avoids the politics that is often intertwined in legislative changes. In Illinois, impact
litigation has shifted the practices of the child-welfare system to be more child-directed, whether
directly or indirectly.
However, complications with using impact litigation to bring change to the child welfare
remain. First, it is difficult to bring this means of change to the people that need to utilize it.
Second, it is hard to identify the problem when the people affected often do not have the
opportunities to bring light on their situations when the agencies are not working with the children
147 Young Mother’s Parental Rights Terminate for Smoking Marijuana, THE FAM, DEFENSE CTR. (Aug. 4, 2016),
http://www.familydefensecenter.net/young-mothers-parental-rights-terminated-for-smoking-marijuana (A mother
was indicated under Allegation 60 for neglect in 2014 despite the allegation being declared null and void.).
148 Children’s Report to the Court and Motion to Extend the Consent Decree for Two Years and For Additional
Relief, B.H. v. Gregg, No. 88-C-7919, (N.D. Il. 2014), available at
149 Id. at 5.
151 See GenerallyMaking Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children
and Sustain Families, BAZELON CTR. FOR MENTAL HEALTH (May 1998),
http://www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=vUdhhPjx4_E%3d&tabid=104) (discussing past proponents and
efforts of the child welfare system shifting to be more “child focused”).